Bringing Down the House (film)

Bringing Down the House is a 2003 American comedy film written by Jason Filardi and directed by Adam Shankman. The film stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

Bringing Down the House
Bringing down the house poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdam Shankman
Produced byDavid Hoberman
Ashok Amritraj
Written byJason Filardi
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyJulio Macat
Edited byGerald B. Greenberg
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • March 7, 2003 (2003-03-07)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$33 million[citation needed]
Box office$164.7 million[1]


Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) is an uptight workaholic tax attorney in his fifties. He is separated from his wife Kate (Jean Smart), who has an extremely unpleasant younger sister Ashley (Missi Pyle). Peter and Kate have two children, 15-year-old Sarah (Kimberly J. Brown) and 8-year-old Georgie (Angus T. Jones).

Online, Peter has been conversing with a woman who seems ideal to him, "lawyer-girl", who appears to be a blond, successful, and well-educated lawyer. He sets up a blind date at his house, and is shocked to see that lawyer-girl is in fact Charlene Morton (Queen Latifah), a convicted felon who wants Peter to help her get her record cleared. Peter tries to throw her out, but reluctantly lets her stay overnight in the guest room.

At the law office, Peter's friend Howie Rottman (Eugene Levy) is helping Peter's attempt to land a huge contract with a wealthy client, Mrs. Virginia Arness (Joan Plowright). Howie finds Charlene very attractive as soon as he meets her, and is actively wooing her during most of the film.

Charlene is very determined, and despite Peter's rejection, she keeps reappearing at Peter's home, his office, and other places where he visits. She comes very close to ruining his chances of landing the big contract. However, it becomes apparent that although she is from a very different social stratum than Peter, and has a self-presentation which is the polar opposite of his, she is nonetheless kind, intelligent, ingenious, and well-educated in the law, thanks to the studying she did while she was incarcerated.

At one point, Charlene is forced to “pass” as the nanny of Peter's children. She ends up genuinely making friends with the children, and she is able to help Peter's son Georgie overcome his inability to read, as well as saving Sarah from humiliation after her boyfriend stood her up at a party.

Charlene even helps Peter himself learn to loosen up a lot more, so he has a chance of being successful in winning his wife back again, which is what he wants more than anything else.

Peter goes on to set up a small law firm with Howie, who is now in a relationship with Charlene, and Peter is much less of a workaholic and succeeds in winning his wife's affections back.


  • Steve Martin as Peter Sanderson, an uptight lawyer who reluctantly helps Charlene with her case. They eventually bond, becoming close friends.
  • Queen Latifah as Charlene Morton, an escaped convict who was framed, and seeks Peter's help in proving her innocence. Over the course of the film, she bonds with Peter and the family as she poses as their nanny. She is also Howie's love interest.
  • Eugene Levy as Howie Rottman, Peter's over-sexed best friend and colleague. He falls madly in love with Charlene upon meeting her.
  • Kimberly J. Brown as Sarah Sanderson, Peter's daughter and older child.
  • Angus T. Jones as Georgie Sanderson, Peter's son and younger child.
  • Jean Smart as Kate Sanderson, Peter's estranged wife. It's apparent that they still harbor feelings for one another, as she is jealous of his new friendship with Charlene, believing them to be in a relationship.
  • Missi Pyle as Ashley, Kate's promiscuous, and alcoholic sister.
  • Joan Plowright as Virginia Arness, an arrogant client of Peter's.
  • Steve Harris as Widow, Charlene's shady ex-boyfriend.
  • Michael Rosenbaum as Todd Gendler, Peter's arrogant colleague & apparent replacement.
  • Betty White as Mrs. Kline, Peter's racist neighbor.
  • Jim Haynie as Ed Tobias, Peter, Howie and Todd's boss.
  • Matt Lutz as Aaron
  • Victor Webster as Glen
  • Kelly Price as herself


A soundtrack containing hip hop and R&B music was released on March 4, 2003 by Hollywood Records. It peaked at 111 on the Billboard 200 and 23 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.


Critical responseEdit

Bringing Down the House received mostly mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 34% based on 150 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Though the cast shines, they can't save this comedy, which is overly contrived and filled with outdated and offensive racial jokes."[2] On Metacritic the film has a score of 39 out of 100 based on reviews from 31 critics.[3] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.[4]

Todd McCarthy of Variety magazine wrote: "There are certainly good laughs to be had. But the contrived script and bland direction prevent the film from ever developing a comic life of its own, leaving what fun there is seeming like the foundation to a rumpus room that's never finished."[5]

Box officeEdit

On a budget of $35 million, the film became a surprise hit, spending three weeks at #1 in the United States. It earned $132.6 million in the United States and an international gross of $32 million, bringing its worldwide gross to $164.6 million.[1] As of March 2009, it is ranked #231 of the All Time Top Grossing USA Motion Pictures.[6]


Queen Latifah

Steve Martin


  1. ^ a b "Bringing Down the House". The Numbers.
  2. ^ "Bringing Down the House (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  3. ^ "Bringing Down the House". Metacritic.
  4. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  5. ^ McCarthy, Todd (February 23, 2003). "Bringing Down the House". Variety (magazine).
  6. ^ "All-Time USA Box office". IMDb.

External linksEdit